Value 3B: Follow the Blue Raven Six-Step Problem Solving Approach
By Ben Peterson, CEO
As we discuss the last part of our mission and values, we are reminded repetition is the mother of all learning. By reviewing our three values and the way they are implemented into our organization, we are solidifying their importance and priority. Blue Raven Solar has three values helping us to stay on track and achieve our mission.
Those values are:
- Develop a High-Trust Culture
- Be Efficient
- Continuously Improve
Each value is accompanied by four statements capturing what living this value means for us.
Our third value, “Continuously Improve,” means four things to us:
3A: Gather data to make decisions
3B: Follow the Blue Raven six-step problem solving approach
3C: Try new things and fail quickly
3D: Be go-getters
Learn to Solve Problems like a Raven
Value 3B is: Follow the Blue Raven Solar six-step problem-solving approach.
The six-step problem solving process begins with problem identification. From experience, I know if you ask someone how they know whether something is a problem, you will typically get a blank stare in return.
You will often hear something along the lines of, “You just know when something is a problem,” or “I’ve never really wondered that before…I guess it is when there is a problem?” Without proper problem identification, it is impossible to live our value of continuous improvement.
Mike Rother’s book, Toyota Kata, explains it best. Put simply, problems are gaps between observations and expectations. Mike explains to identify a problem, you need all 3 components.
First, you need data about the current condition. What are the facts?
Next, you need a target condition. What is the goal?
Finally, you need to compare the two and understand where you are falling short.
We talk a lot about not skipping steps in the problem-solving process. After rigorous problem identification (and prioritization), we conduct root cause problem solving to understand causality. We build issue trees, ask the 5-whys, and keep digging to understand what is behind any gap in performance.
Steps 3 and 4, generating solutions and implementing action plans, are intuitive, but the process does not end there. We follow steps 5 and 6 with rigor.
Evaluating the results of any initiative helps us determine if we got the solution right. Sustaining impact over time means we cannot afford to ‘forget’ or lose ground on an issue we have solved in the past. Standard procedures, team huddles, metrics and goals, and other tools are helpful here. Above all, everybody must play a part in the problem-solving process. Solving problems is not up to the management team but rather a collective effort to implement creative and lasting solutions to complex problems.
More than anything, we believe the operationalization of an improvement culture is what leads to superior outcomes for homeowners and sets us apart from our competitors. The six-step problem solving approach is at the very center of that effort.
Building Off of What Came Before
With each of our statements, 3B continues to build on the values and supplemental statements before it. Through trusting, empowering, and respecting one another, we know we can effectively go through the process to solve problems without any discouragement, unnecessary criticism, or creation of new problems within the team. Through efficiency, maintaining simplicity in the field, and identifying and eliminating unnecessary costs, we can solve problems in a way that is beneficial to every party involved and sets a precedent for approaching similar situations.
In fact, our employees have noticed the six-step process helps to solve underlying issues and has prevented more problems, which is similar to one of the reasons we have Value 2B, Obsessively Reduce Cycle Times. If we do not have to solve the same problem each time we go through a standard process, we will automatically be more efficient as a team and as an organization.
Current Employee Feedback and Insights
We asked Blue Raven Solar employees how they experience value 3B within the workplace. Here is what some of them said:
With massive growth this year, there have been a lot of issues to resolve. Using the problem-solving approach has helped to resolve these issues quickly and efficiently.
When a unique problem arises that may not have a typical process, the six-step problem solving approach is used to solve those unique situations.
We are always trying new things here at the ‘ol Raven and when a new problem shows up, we always follow the problem-solving approach because it works.
We in customer ops are asked to break down things as much as we can before we get the process messy. We use this step every day. Literally EVERY DAY.
I love this value. It allows us to get to the root cause of the issue versus pointing fingers and spinning our wheels.
Any large-scale decision goes through the problem-solving approach, ensuring we gather all data that goes in to making a decision.
It really helps you understand the importance of the problem and where to prioritize it.
This is one of the best things I have seen within Blue Raven Solar over the years. It is great to hear the phrase “What is the Root Cause,” and fellow coworkers really try hard to fix it at the base vs just a quick fix and move on.
I think problem solving is a huge part of Blue Raven Solar. I do not want to say we are constantly running into problems, but when we do run into them, I love that there is a 6-step guide Blue Raven Solar has to offer that we can refer to that will help us resolve the problem. I think the great thing about all our values here at Blue Raven Solar is they can be used in our everyday lives!
Customer ops was trying to figure out a way to best utilize our team to answer phones and tackle queue work. Management used the six-step problem solving approach to find a solution.
Using the problem board in team huddles has been extremely useful in bringing to light the things that need to be considered before we make solutions to issues or roadblocks that we have.
Working in our huddles each morning, it gives me a chance to rethink the problems I am having and move them through the six-step process. I find that it solves my problems faster than I am used to and empowers me as an employee.
We have been following Value 3B out in the field almost every week. When we come upon a problem, we find the best solutions to resolve the issue.
Whenever there is a problem in the proposals department, we immediately get down to finding the source of the problem, and not a quick solution, even though the process may take longer at first. If it eliminates the problem all together, then it is more efficient in the long run.
Our department has seen quite a few issues we have used this method to solve and have solved quite a few problems as a team.
Maintaining Goals and Commitments
Value 3B helps us to stay close to our number one goal: to make homeowners’ lives better. With a tried-and-true problem-solving process and everyone on the same page about approaching it, we can ensure our customers are the recipients of thoughtful solutions.
Our mission is to make homeowners’ lives better by reducing their energy bills, by increasing their reliance on clean and abundant renewable energy, and by providing a world-class customer experience through a reliable sales process and a speedy, high-quality installation.
With Blue Raven Solar’s mission and values leading our business and operations, we know we can provide each homeowner with the best solar journey.
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